Features of early Martian environment and presence of water drive search for life forms

Apr 16, 2009
Mars

New Rochelle, April 16, 2009-Solar energy and winds, collisions with asteroids and comets, and changing magnetic fields have all altered the environment of Mars, a planet that may have been able to support life during its history, as documented in a special collection of papers published in the current issue of Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert.

Compiled by Helmut Lammer, PhD, Senior Editor of Astrobiology, from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, this special paper collection features a report by Pham et al. that presents a semi-analytical model to evaluate the influence of impacts on the evolution of the carbon dioxide-based martian atmosphere. The results of this study indicate that impacts alone cannot satisfactorily explain the loss of significant atmospheric mass since the Late Noachian (~ 3.7 - 4 Ga). In other words, if the martian atmosphere was much denser at about 4 Ga than at present, impact erosion was most likely not responsible for the removal of the atmosphere at that time.

Terada et al. present a 3-D model to assess the effects of exposure to solar energy and winds on ion escape on early Mars 4.5 Ga, and to demonstrate how ion erosion could have led to the loss of water that might have been present on Mars. Two reports, by Horváth et al. and Fendrihan et al., explore the existence and survival of two types of bacteria under martian surface and environmental conditions, and the types of habitats that might have existed to support these life forms.

"The results of Pham et al. and Terada et al. indicate that Mars should have lost its denser initial CO2 atmosphere very early," says Dr. Lammer, PhD, "and may have been cold and dry during most of its history. Leblanc and colleagues propose a new concept in exploratory missions with Mars Environment and Magnetic Orbiter (MEMO), which would gather data to help scientists understand how the martian surface, atmosphere, and have evolved, and how those questions raised by Terada et al. and Pham et al. can be investigated."

In honor of the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 2009 and the anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, On the Origin of Species, this issue of Astrobiology also includes papers describing the proposed Darwin Mission, which will take measurements on Earth-like planets outside our solar system.

"Though the final configuration of missions to study the spectra of Earth-like planets has not yet been decided," says Charles S. Cockell, PhD, Senior Editor of Astrobiology, and Professor at The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, "Darwin represents a very important step in a consolidated scientific and technical architecture for such a mission."

More information: This Special Paper Collection is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/ast

Source: Mary Ann Liebert

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bringing Martian samples to Earth

Aug 13, 2008

New Rochelle, NY, August 13, 2008 – A critical component of NASA's Mars exploration program involves bringing planetary samples back to Earth for in-depth analysis, plans for which are detailed in the latest issue of Astrobiology, a peer ...

Evidence of ancient hot springs on Mars detailed

Feb 12, 2009

New Rochelle, NY, February 12, 2009 -Data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) suggest the discovery of ancient springs in the Vernal Crater, sites where life forms may have evolved on Mars, according to a report in ...

Clay Studies Alter View of Early Mars Environment

Jul 18, 2007

A study of the thermodynamics of clays found on Mars suggests that little carbon dioxide could have been present during their formation, which contradicts a popular theory of the early Martian atmosphere and ...

Mars Express observes aurorae on the red planet

Nov 21, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists using ESA's Mars Express have produced the first crude map of aurorae on Mars. These displays of ultraviolet light appear to be located close to the residual magnetic fields generated ...

Rare high-altitude clouds found on Mars

Aug 28, 2006

Planetary scientists have discovered the highest clouds above any planetary surface. They found them above Mars using the SPICAM instrument on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft. The results are a new piece ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

14 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

21 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

Dec 19, 2014

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.